Grid 101

Grid 101

When it comes to the details of the power grid, on-site wind generation is different.

Wind Turbines and the Electric Grid

This diagram illustrates how wind turbines connect to the electric grid.

A utility-scale wind farm, a nuclear power plant, and a coal-fired power plant are connected to the interstate electric grid, which is a network of high-voltage (50,000-700,000 volts) power lines. Power is sent to the distribution grid via regional substations, where the voltage is stepped down.

Large industrial consumers receive their power directly from the distribution grid at 4,000-35,000 volts. For residential consumers, a pole-mounted or pad-mounted transformer steps the power down again to 240 volts. The local electric utility company measures (and bills for) the power consumed by each customer with an electric meter (“M”).

On-site wind generation is different. One Energy installs one or more of the same utility-scale turbines used at wind farms, but right on the industrial consumer’s premises. Power is generated and used “behind the meter” at the consumers’ facility, directly offsetting power that would otherwise have been purchased at retail rates from the distribution grid. Any excess power generated is sent to the distribution grid.